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Record-Breaking Senna Nets Game-Winner

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Highlights from our important 0-3 win in Zaragoza:

The Romareda has been something of a bogey ground for Villarreal in recent years, but it offered few pitfalls today. Captain Marcos Senna's ninth-minute goal gave the Submarine an early lead against Real Zaragoza, with Cazorla and Nilmar also netting to give Villarreal an easy 3-0 victory.

The home team opened with a lone striker and five in midfield, a formation Villarreal should expect to see often the remainder of the season. Valencia showed a 4-5-1 can work well against Villarreal when the team playing it has the ability and workrate to press high up the pitch and create dangerous opportunities on the break; however, Zaragoza showed none of these qualities. As a result, after a few tentative opening exchanges, Diego Lopez was hardly troubled in Villarreal's net, and the Submarine was able to post an easy victory.

Villarreal is of course without Joan Capdevila at the moment, and we missed his trademark marauding attacks down the left wing. His replacement at left back, Oriol, pushed forward only to just beyond the halfway line in support, while Cani tried to give attacking width on that side, but didn't always succeed. Without those strong runs, and without Borja Valero (suspended for yellow card accumulation) to ping passes through from midfield to the strikers, the Villarreal attack was more sporadic than usual. Nonetheless, Villarreal were beginning to dominate play when the first goal came, a tremendous strike by Marcos Senna on a day when he became the club's all-time appearance leader. The second goal nine minutes later, which may or may not have been intended as a cross from Cazorla to Nilmar, for all intents and purposes guaranteed the three points would be heading back to the Valencian Community.

To its credit, after establishing a two-goal Villarreal did not retreat; in fact, Santi could've had a third almost immediately after scoring the second. Still, the play was disjointed, partly because we tended to try to feed low-percentage passes through to the strikers that were cut out, partly because when Nilmar, in particular, had an opportunity to run forward from the middle of the pitch he was clumsily tackled.

The third goal was no less than Villarreal deserved, Rossi having come close earlier, and it followed Contini's deserved dismissal--he could have received two yellow cards in the first half. Nilmar was replaced by Marco Ruben shortly afterward, and he played well, bringing an excellent save from Franco to deny Villarreal a fourth. Matilla and Catala also came off the bench, Catala as a replacement for Joan Oriol, who was badly fouled by Ander Herrera and was stretchered off with a leg injury, not believed to be serious.

Zaragoza's best player was probably Jorge Lopez in midfield, but to be honest when attacking they lacked confidence and quality, hardly troubling Diego Lopez. As for Villarreal, a sentimental man of the match had to be Senna, who was able to play all 90 minutes and was the picture of calmness in midfield in addition to scoring a remarkable goal. No one played badly, but Santi Cazorla, Nilmar, and Gonzalo stood out for me among the others; Santi for his goal and assist, Nilmar for his goal and constantly dangerous runs from midfield, and Gonzalo was the best of the backline; he defended capably and confidently when required.

Perhaps a Barca or Real Madrid would have won by more goals, and perhaps the result reveals more about the lack of quality of the home side than Villarreal's play, but it was encouraging to see Villarreal post as easy and untroubled a victory as coach Garrido, or for that matter Villarreal supporters, could have asked for ahead of a must-win match in El Madrigal against Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday!